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Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing Paperback – 18 Feb 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; Reprint edition (18 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262525895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262525893
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Paul Dourish is Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and in Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction (MIT Press, 2001, 2004). Genevieve Bell is an Intel Fellow and the Director of Intel's first user-focused research and development lab, Interactions and Experiences Research.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Nia on 30 Dec 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My daughter, a student of Social Sciences says: "As I have not read that much about the given area I found it fascinating, as it gave clear background information and introduced me to connections and ideas which I had previously not considered."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book an enjoyable and well read. It covers the cultural assumptions behind the concepts of ubiquitous or pervasive computing and compares them against other cultural traditions to show how fundamental concepts being touted as 'universal' are anything but.

There is much food for thought in this book for people in the field and those thinking of creating social media sharing platforms as well as those interested interested in hardware design.

This book is written in a clear, academic style. It is not written in the style of popular science or a popular business studies book. Those looking for ten top tips for the future will be disappointed - this book raises more questions than it answers. This is not a negative in my opinion and I have already recommended the book to four of my colleagues!
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Format: Hardcover
I've never been moved to offer a review on Amazon before. I'm a university academic from a different field (medicine). I ordered this book because I'm about to start a research project on how to design assisted living technologies for older people living in their homes. I'm not trying to design these technologies myself, I'm trying to understand "what needs to be understood in order to design appropriate technologies". I'd got as far as working out that "ethnographic" and "co-design" approaches were a good idea, but was hazy on the detail of what to do next - and on how to theorise such a complex and crowded field of inquiry.

Before I opened this book, I'd explored around the heterogeneous literature on 'real world' technology design and realised that the signal to noise ratio in this field is very weak (there's a lot of technical stuff, a lot of science fiction / speculation, some really sad stuff on smart homes, lots of deterministic experiments from geeky doctors, some fantastically clever sociology which is hard to apply in practice, and a splash of colour from the wackier fringes of actor-network theory). But I hadn't found much to help answer the question "but which conceptual / theoretical perspective[s] do I need for MY project to inform better ICT design?".

This book was the overview I was looking for. After setting ubicomp in a fascinating historical context, it offers a succinct and beautifully written overview of the key theoretical perspectives, introducing many, dismissing some and recommending a few (all with justification). Ethnograhy is needed not just to "get data" to inform design, but to illuminate the practices through which "culture" is constructed and technologies-in-use emerge (or not).
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JT on 5 Dec 2011
Format: Hardcover
Being a technical guy in a business world, I always look to the future and try and make sure I know where my solutions are going to end up. This isn't just from a technical perspective but also from a business and social one. Doing so allows you to introduce future concepts gently and as early as appropriate.

I'd been given this book after a fascinating talk at a general IT conference by one of the authors and couldn't wait to get started on it, thinking it would give me some much needed insight into where I should be aiming. I can vouch that the author is definitely knowledgeable on their subject and in conversation, certainly provided some insights the industry needed.

Whilst I'm sure the information is in the book somewhere, I can't find it. That's not meaning to say it isn't a good book (which I'm sure it is) but it just isn't aimed at your general tech manager looking to get a leg-up on the future. Incessant inline use of referencing, reminiscent of medical papers or heavy research meant that I couldn't hold a train of thought long enough to connect the start and end of ideas - why couldn't it be in footnotes? In addition to this that the entire "narrative" seems to be written in individual quotes, quoted paragraphs and concepts assigned to researchers which made the whole thing even more difficult to get through. I found myself re-reading most sections and eventually gave up after a third.

I can see that for anyone used to ingesting medical research (in a previous role I saw a lot of it) or academic research may be able to 'get' it but whilst I'd recommend the writers and the concepts the book attempts to get across, I couldn't recommend this book to others in my field.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not a bunch of predictions 3 Oct 2011
By Jon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about understanding people & culture first, technology second. If you're looking for a book that tells you what the next wave of computing is, buy a different book - the authors even suggest a few at the end to read as you're reading the final chapter (Everyware, Shaping Things, etc.).

If you want to understand all of the cultural and human considerations that should be part of a research project when considering new technology, then this book is for you. Think of it as an ethnographers guide for technology research... which isn't as good a title, but I think sums up the book pretty well.

Overall, the book was really good.

The frustrating part for me was the never-ending references to research papers, it's almost like they should have included them in the back or something or given links to them at the front of each chapter so you could go read those first.

Once you get past that, the authors do a really good job of outlining all those messy considerations that are often overlooked in "visions of the future", things like Privacy, Security, etc.

One thing that stood out to me, probably because it was at the end of the book, was the part about "the home of the future" as being an idyllic place. The reality is something different, I think it was something like 4 Million women a year are victims of domestic violence, how will the home of future, with all this technology, be better for them (I'm paraphrasing here, probably not very well).

If you are investigating the future of technology I highly recommend this book. If you want to know what the future is, this probably isn't the book for you.
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